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All About Jonathan Apples

Jonathan Apples are considered an American Heirloom variety that was passed over by the commercial world in favor of newer, more exciting apples. However, they continue to be a local favorite, a staple of the Northeast, and a parent apple to new varieties. 

Jonathan Apples

History Of Jonathan Apples

Interestingly, the Jonathan apple has two original stories. While neither one can be entirely validated, the Jonathan Apple is listed as originating from Woodstock, New York. 

The first story goes that a woman named Mrs. Higley took seeds from a local cider mill in Connecticut and planted them in Ohio, where her family decided to settle down. These seeds became her own personal orchard. She named the apple after a young local boy, Jonathan.

The second and more widely accepted story places the origins of this variety in 1826 on the farm of Philip Rick, who lived in New York. The seeds that Philip planted came from an Esopus Spitzenburg seedling, which the modern-day Jonathan apple is closely related to.

The apple that Philip Rick created was originally known as the “Rick” apple and was then re-named after Jonathan Zander, who brought the apple to the President of Albany Horticultural Society to have it officially recognized.

Either way, the Jonathan stuck around as a simple but satisfying variety. It has acted as the parent apple to a wide array of descendants, including the popular Idared.

The Jonathan hasn’t done great commercially but is well-loved locally. It’s a great choice for those looking to grow their own trees in the Northeast and is considered an heirloom variety.

Other apples related to the Jonathan include the Jonagold, Jonafree, and Jonamac. 


What Jonathan Apples Look and Taste Like

Red Jonathan Apples

The Jonathan apple is an inconspicuous apple. It doesn’t have the striking appearance of other newer varieties. Instead, it’s medium-sized, slightly taller in height than other apples, and has a yellow base with a red overlay. When it has limited sun exposure the apple can appear striped. 

Interestingly, Jonathan apples grown in the Midwest, Jonathan apples are larger than the Jonathan apples grown in the Northeast.

Outwardly the skin is tough but thin and smooth. Inside, the flesh is on the softer side – still crisp, but lacking a crunch, and very juicy. In fact, the Jonathan apple is known for how juicy it is. It’s a very aromatic apple with a sweet, slightly acidic taste. 


Where to Get Jonathan Apples

The most fun way to get your hands on Jonathan apples is by visiting an apple orchard in the fall! I’ve put together a list of my favorite apple orchards in almost every US state.

Check it out to see which ones are closest to you! Because Jonathan apples aren’t super popular, you should call the orchards ahead of time to confirm that they grow that variety.

Jonathan apples are unlikely to be found in grocery stores as they have not held up well against other commercial varieties, but you could try your luck at a local farmer’s market.

Another option is buying a Jonathan apple tree online and growing it yourself! They a great option for small-yield, home-grown orchards as the trees take up less space than other varieties and provide a decent yield.

Keep in mind that they prefer full sunlight and moist but well-drained soil. 


How to Use Jonathan Apples

Like most apples, the most common way to consume a Jonathan apple is to eat it fresh! Because they lack a certain crunch that you can find in other varieties, they’re not everyone’s favorite apple, but I think the juiciness makes up for it.

This apple can also be used in many desserts, like the iconic apple pie. Keep in mind, however, that the flesh breaks down easily and quickly, so it should be supplemented with other apple varieties that retain their shape with cooking if you’re concerned about appearance. The Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, or Braeburn are great options.

Jonathan apples also store incredibly well for out-of-season use. In a refrigerator, they can last anywhere from three to six months. But if you’re looking for an alternative way to preserve your apples other than storing them cold, canning is a great option.

It can be done in small or bulk batches and because Jonathan apples already break down anyway, you won’t have to worry too much about preserving their shape. Canned apples are a fast and easy way to turn out pies, cobblers, and other desserts fairly quickly. 

Check out all of my content on storing your apple harvest.

Due to how much juice these apples hold, they’re also used often for making apple juice or apple cider. Surprisingly, homemade apple cider isn’t too hard to make, although you’ll want to clear your schedule for three hours or so. The effort is well worth it in the end!

Here’s a short list of recipes that the Jonathan apple would do well in:


Jonathan Apple Nutritional Facts

There’s a reason they say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” as cliché as it is.

Fresh apples are a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. They’ve been proven to help prevent heart disease and promote healthy digestion.

Apples also contain a wide range of antioxidants that inhibit cancer cell proliferation and lower cholesterol. 

They have been linked to preventing: strokes, dementia, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. 

Eating an apple a day can provide 4.4g of fiber, 10.9mg calcium, 9.1mg magnesium, 195mg potassium, 8.37mg vitamin C, and many more vitamins and nutrients.

Discover the 10 amazing health benefits of apples to learn more about why they’re so healthy.


Growing Jonathan Apples

Jonathan Apples on a Tree

New England is the perfect place to grow Jonathan apples, as it is where they are believed to have originated. They thrive best in a New England climate but will do well anywhere with rich soil. 

In the Midwest they tend to grow larger, whereas on the east coast they’re smaller in size. Trees come full-sized, semi-dwarf, or dwarf, at heights of 20-25 feet, 15 feet, and 10 feet respectively. As a general rule, Jonathan apple trees can be planted a bit closer than many other varieties of apple trees, meaning they make a great fit for smaller home orchards. 

Full sun and moist but well-drained soil is ideal for these trees. They flower in May with white to light pink flowers and the fruit ripens later in the season compared to other varieties. These are slow-growing trees, so a standard-size tree will bear fruit in six-10 years.

Dwarf trees fruit in three to four years. Keep in mind that these trees should be planted with other varieties to ensure pollination.


Pests and Diseases in Jonathan Apple Trees

Common problems the Jonathan apple tree may face include scab, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust, and fire blight.

Apple scab is very common and makes fruit unfit for eating. Leaves develop olive green or brown spots. Treatment involves reducing new infections, cleaning dropped leaves from the base of trees, removing infected wood, and pruning regularly. Scab can also be controlled by the use of fungicides applied early in the season. 

Powdery mildew is a type of fungal thread that attacks every aspect of the apple tree. It can be severe enough that fruit will not be produced. Unfortunately, it’s easy for this fungus to take hold as it doesn’t require a wet setting, as other fungi do. As with scab, the best way to control mildew is to prune regularly and use fungicides as necessary.

Cedar apple rust is another variety of fungi that attacks apple trees in the Northeast. It appears as yellow, fuzzy spots on the leaves and teliohorns (horn-like structures) on the fruit.

This obviously creates blemishes on fruit, but the fungus also reduces yields and weakens the trees. Treatment includes prevention by cutting down junipers in the area and using fungicides on apple trees.

Lastly, fire blight is a contagious disease that can take out entire orchards. Leaves appear dry and blackened. It affects other fruit trees because it is easily transmitted by bees, birds, and weather conditions. It’s possible to use streptomycin spray to create resistance in orchards. There is no known cure for fire blight, so preventing it is key.

Learn more about apple tree pests and diseases to be prepared!


Fun Facts About Apples

  • Apples are not only beneficial to humans, but to the environment and wildlife as well. They have been shown to provide areas with food, shelter, and symbiotic relationships. Bees rely on fruit trees, including the apple tree, for nectar and pollen. Wildlife can nest in trees or browse the branches. 
  • 2lbs of apples make one apple pie.
  • Depending on their use, apples used to be referred to as “keepers,” “saucers,” or “dessert apples.” 
  • Apples are a member of the rose family.

Now You Know All About Jonathan Apples!

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